PODCASTEnvironmentally Speaking EP 76: Redevelopment

April 20, 20230

Transcript: Redevelopment

CLARICE:  Good morning, everybody.  And welcome to this week’s episode of Environmentally Speaking.MARISA:  Hi, everybody.  I’m Marisa Desautel, an environmental attorney in Rhode Island.

CLARICE:  And I’m Clarice coming in with questions, topics and things to talk about except for this week.  I don’t have the topic.  You do, Marisa.

MARISA:  I also have the sniffles.


MARISA:  So I’m going to try my hardest not to be annoying.  I apologize up front if I’m sniffing without knowing.  Allergy season.  So we are talking about redevelopment today, right?  Is that what we decided?



CLARICE:  We wanted it be happy for once I’m hoping.

MARISA:  Yeah.

CLARICE:  If that’s not why that’s what I’m saying now.  I don’t know.  It’s just something a little lighter, something a little less — oh, God.

MARISA:  Can you hear me sniffing?

CLARICE:  I’m just hoping for something — a little bit.

MARISA:  Okay.

CLARICE:  Just something a little bit more —

MARISA:  Hoping for something lighthearted?

CLARICE:  Yeah.  Something a little bit more hopeful.  And I think, too, I had — earlier in the week I had sent you an Instagram video because the algorithm is constantly watching and listening and I’m pretty sure that my phone knows that we have an environmental podcast because my Instagram has started sending me more — or like showing me more environmental reels and more of that content.

MARISA:  Oh, yeah.  How are you feeling about that?

CLARICE:  I’m enjoying it because it’s more topics for discussion.

MARISA:  Ah.  But it’s depressing a little, too, right?

CLARICE:  One, it’s depressing and, two, it’s creepy that it knows because, you know, typically that’s not what I’m going on Instagram to look for, so the fact that it knows and it’s like, you might like this, let me just show you —

MARISA:  Yeah.

CLARICE:  But I had seen a video of this woman talking about — specifically she had talked about gas stations and why there are so many abandoned gas stations and why it’s easier to, say, redevelop a store or change use for a building versus a gas station specifically.  So that kind of led the two of us into a conversation of redevelopment in general.

MARISA:  I like the topic of redevelopment more than development because development generally means that you’ve got to cut down trees or other existing habitat.

CLARICE:  Uh-huh.

MARISA:  Redevelopment is where you take a previously developed property and you do exactly what the name says.  You redevelop it.  You’re not impacting undisturbed habitat.

[0:03:01] CLARICE:  And I’m wondering if — depending on the state of the space that you’re redeveloping I’m wondering if there’s a cost benefit to it because you’re not going in and having to clear the land or level out a space or lay some sort of foundation depending on its condition.  So I’m wondering if there are some kind of built-in benefits into considering those spaces.

MARISA:  There must be because you wouldn’t have people coming forward to do the projects if there wasn’t a profit to be made.  In the context of environmental science and environmental law, the redevelopment usually means that there’s a pollutant or pollution that exists on the property that also needs to be addressed prior to the redevelopment beginning.  So in those cases, yes, that can be very expensive, actually, to try to clean a property to a specific standard.  And generally as part of a commercial real estate transaction for contaminated property, you’ve got one party that indemnifies the other in case there’s a future environmental enforcement action.

CLARICE:  And for our new listeners, indemnify is?

MARISA:  Oh, you want me to answer that?

CLARICE:  Oh, yeah.

MARISA:  Indemnification is when one party agrees that they will step into the shoes of another party for a particular purpose.  In the example that I’m giving you would indemnify or step into the shoes of a party that’s buying your property because you want them to buy the property and you know that there’s a problem, so you’re willing to — to take that risk away from someone that wants to buy the property, for example.  Many issues there as you might imagine.

CLARICE:  Oh, yeah.

MARISA:  Many, many issues that come along with environmental indemnification.

CLARICE:  Yeah.  And I think we did an episode on Superfund sites if you want to listen to a lot of those issues in some more detail there.

MARISA:  Yeah.  Yeah.

CLARICE:  But, yeah, again, as our listeners know, I’m from Fall River and there’s tons of redevelopment in our city specifically with the old mills which can take a bunch of different shapes and that could be some of the old mills being turned into different storefronts.  So instead of being one large mill workroom, it’s being kind of divided up into different storefronts.  There’s actually a fantastic yoga studio.  I think it’s Troy City Yoga which is —

MARISA:  Oh, I’ve been there.  I’ve been there.

CLARICE:  It’s beautiful.

MARISA:  It’s wonderful.

CLARICE:  And it’s just — they took a mill and, you know, they, you know, divided it up, put in some walls and it’s now this beautiful space, so it’s a redevelopment without actually breaking any ground and doing a ton of construction to the structure itself, so that’s one option for redevelopment and then there are some other issues.  And I bring up the mill specifically because of all of the chemicals and the different techniques used to create the fabrics and treat the fabrics and dyes and things like that and that has left a lot of the soil in some rough shape.

[0:06:29] MARISA:  When you’re talking about the building in Fall River that was redeveloped, do you happen to know if there is environmental contamination associated with that property?

CLARICE:  There’s a couple.  Where our Walmart is on Quequechan Street, that was a contaminated site and I don’t remember the name of the mill right next to it, but that whole lot — that whole block was at one point deemed contaminated.  I’m not sure if parts of it still are, but I know where the Walmart is has been cleaned for the creation of it.

MARISA:  That’s a really good example of redevelopment.  Walmarts are not known for being good environmental stewards.  In fact, they’re pretty awful —


MARISA:  — in terms of respecting natural habitat, but that is a good example of a corporate entity with the resources to take on a contaminated property and take on the cleanup.  There are federal and state grant programs that you can avail yourself of if you want to purchase a contaminated property.  The program is called the brownfields redevelopment program at the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and every year that program gets new funding, so it’s something that the federal government encourages.  They want property redeveloped.

CLARICE:  In your line of work, do you see this being something that’s commonly looked at as a first option or a second option?

MARISA:  Usually a second option.  Yeah.  Because it takes time and money and there’s no guarantee.  The field of brownfields redevelopment I think is a bit of a niche market.  If you’re going to buy a property that’s contaminated, you’ve got to go through — well, you don’t have to, but I would recommend that you go through an environmental due diligence process and you have to be pretty savvy about how the program works and what the risks are and how to deal with — how to mitigate risks, so I don’t know a lot of developers that are doing brownfields redevelopment except for Walmart.

[0:09:04] CLARICE:  That one Walmart that one time.

MARISA:  One.  Yeah.

CLARICE:  Which, hey, I mean, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but thanks, Walmart.

MARISA:  No.  Don’t go there.

CLARICE:  I mean, that was kind of a cool thing.


CLARICE:  Just that one time.

MARISA:  I’m just going to act like you didn’t say that.  In the article that you sent me that kicked off this topic for us was about a gas station, right?


MARISA:  And what was the deal there?  She was saying it was abandoned?

CLARICE:  Yeah.  Specifically she wasn’t talking about one particular gas station, but the idea of why there are so many abandoned gas stations and why gas stations stay abandoned for so long.  And I think it’s something that at least I hear often and I’m not sure if you hear this all the time, but you hear people go, oh, it’s such a shame, this has been empty for show long, or why don’t they just put something else here.  And people don’t want to see the eyesore of an abandoned gas station and why is nothing done.  Why does it stay so empty for so long.

So I thought it was really interesting how she talked about how you can’t just go in and put in a new gas station right away.  You can’t just convert it to, you know, maybe a convenience store without the gas station or just switch it out to something else given the nature of the extensive tanks underneath.  And gasoline is a dangerous, hazardous, you know, frankly can be really scary chemical to deal with.  And all of that sort of procedure and process and heavy machinery and digging that goes into setting up a gas station and would have to be put into removing it to put it in again for a different gas station or to take it out completely.  And then you have to examine the area for whatever the project is going to be.  Takes a lot of time and money and, frankly, makes it really unappealing.

MARISA:  Yeah.  And the state has a role in that process.  The federal government sometimes can have a role and the local municipality has an opinion and sometimes an approval process that you have to go through, so you’ve got a lot of different third-party pressure that you might not have with a clean piece of property.


MARISA:  So it’s not easy.

CLARICE:  Oh, it’s much easier to switch a Marshall into a Home Goods, mostly because they own each other but just anything other than a gas station.  I mean, in the video she showed the size of the tanks and conceptually I knew they were big tanks, but I had no idea that they really were basically the size of the lot.

[0:12:07] MARISA:  Oh, yeah.  They can be.

CLARICE:  They’re massive.

MARISA:  Yeah.  They can be.

CLARICE:  And they’re so far down.

MARISA:  Yeah.  Can you drop the link to the video in the show notes, do you think, or is it too difficult to do that?

CLARICE:  I’m going to try my best.  I think I can share outside of — from Instagram, so I’ll try to put that in there.  If not I’ll put some sort of note to her account.  That way you guys can find it from there.

MARISA:  Okay.

CLARICE:  But it was really interesting just to watch that.  It was maybe like a 30-second video.  It was really quick and it was just something to think about and it wasn’t — you know, it made you think that folks weren’t necessarily leaving things abandoned out of laziness or out of lack of care.  There are so many additional hurdles to make things difficult and it can take a long time because it needs to be done right and it needs to be done in a way to make sure everything around it is protected.  I mean, gas stations are right next to houses all the time, so if you’re going to put —

MARISA:  And in drinking water areas.

CLARICE:  Yes.  If you’re going to put something there, you need to make sure there is plenty of funding and time and resources to —

MARISA:  And legal counsel.

CLARICE:  Oh, tons of it.  Tons of it.  You need three Marisas.

MARISA:  God help you.

CLARICE:  But you have to make sure you’re really set up to take on that project to make sure all of the surrounding area is safe.  So it’s just some food for thought.

MARISA:  That’s it.  Yeah.

CLARICE:  All right, guys.  Well, if you have anything you want us to talk about hit us up on the socials.  We are at Desautel Browning Law on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter.  You can catch our videos on YouTube.  If you want to send us an e-mail, we are at Help@ DesautelESQ.com.  Send us your thoughts, your comments, things that are happening on your end.  Oh, quick shout-out.  I saw this really interesting project that Google was doing and it is — I’ll put it in our show notes again.  It is a solar project in which you can type in your address and see if your home would be a good candidate for solar panels.  And it tells you why, what percent, what your annual outage put would be and what your annual savings would be.

MARISA:  Did you do it?

CLARICE:  Of course I did.

MARISA:  I’ll have to check it out.

CLARICE:  Yeah.  It was really interesting just to see kind of, you know, how your house would fare with solar panels so something kind of —

MARISA:  Thanks for sharing.

CLARICE:  Weird thing to do.  All right.  Have a good one, everybody.

MARISA:  Thanks, everyone.

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